Posts Tagged With: Life lessons

 
 

One-kin-stine

I have never met a one-year-old that I didn’t find completely and utterly adorable. Their pudgy sausage fingers, their squeals of delight, their hilarious interpretations of new words that will, for better or worse, follow them the remainder of their lives (raga-lo-li-lo-li will forever be on our menu for busy Tuesday nights!) One-year-olds are, without a doubt, the best.

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Unless…

Unless, of course, you happen to take a one-year-old to the grocery store. Hell hath no fury like a toddler who has had enough of the canned tomato isle. King Soopers is a dark and lonely place for a mother who dares to venture to get food with a toddler in tow.

Today happened to be such an occasion for my four boys and me. Despite my inner conscience screaming, “Nooo! Don’t do it. Have you forgotten last time?  Is there no other way??” I loaded them up and off we went. As expected, not two isles in my one-year-old went Dr. Jekyll on me. By the yoghurt section I was carrying him potato-sack style with his hands flailing to reach the string cheese on the other side. By the time we miraculously reached the checkout, I’d been the gracious receiver of no less than seven “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” Five “FOUR boys!? Oh, you poor thing.” Two “Bet if you tried for a girl you’d just get another boy.” and one “Oh, Mama, go buy yourself some flowers. You deserve it.” Not to mention numerous eyebrow-furled stares.

Minutes later as I wrestled my toddler into his car seat and the other boys unloaded the bags out of the cart, I thought about how those grocery shoppers had just witnessed my sweet, little one-kin-stine  at his very worst. No doubt about it, he was a monster for those 45 miserable minutes.

But in those two-second exchanges, they missed so much. They missed ten adorable, pudgy fingers. Fingers that learned to snap when he was just nine months old. They missed how he loves dogs, how he won’t even say his brothers’ names, but can say Howard (our English Shepard) almost perfectly. How he thinks his big brothers are hilarious and loves to steal their toys; how he loves to jump on the trampoline and would spend every waking moment outside given the opportunity. How he climbs on everything and loves to ride in the laundry basket when Mom does the laundry. They missed his big, toothy grin he gets when his dad gives him piggy-back rides and how his brothers always fight over who gets to sit by him every single time we get in the car. He refuses to wear shoes and he’s ticklish on the bottoms of his feet. They missed that too.

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Essentially, they missed that he really isn’t a monster. Not at all.

But I didn’t. I didn’t miss for a minute that these four crazy boys make me one incredibly lucky mom. That when I look at them I feel blessed far beyond what I deserve. And I never ever want those boys to think I forgot. So next time a fellow grocery shopper acknowledges me and my wild brood, I’ll smile and, in all sincerity say,

“Yes. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

 

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Categories: children, Family, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ours for the Leaving

A balmy 75 degrees. Finally a beautiful day. After being cooped up inside for what seemed like an eternity, this change from the frigged, windy winter weather was more than welcomed. I buckled our oldest son, seven months at the time, into the stroller, tucked a blanket around his body, and off we headed on an adventure. He smiled and squealed at everyone we passed, and I was sure that a little walk around this beautiful, sunny, warm world was just what we both needed to lift our spirits.

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Not long after our walk began, we came across two women who took interest in my blue-eyed boy, although not with the same exchange of pleasantries and adorations I had become accustomed to over the last seven months.

“What on earth are you doing out here with JUST a blanket? That poor boy is going to catch cold! He needs a coat. Are you his mother?”

As they walked away obviously disgusted with my happy, smiling son’s lack of winter clothes on that (75 degree, warm and beautiful) day, I was completely crushed. What I had thought would be a fun bonding experience with my son turned into a glimpse of one of the harsh realities in the world of parenting.

Seven years and four kids later, I have learned that everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your children. And occasionally, despite your very best efforts to do things the right way, one of those “everyones” decides that you need to know exactly what you are doing wrong.

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After seven years and four kids, I’ve also learned another truth: I’m really, really lousy at accepting criticism.

Being a parent, I am completely convinced, is one of the most humbling experiences a person can ever have.

Let your child cry it out. Get your child the minute he cries. Co-sleeping is a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Don’t you dare co-sleep, studies show that’s a bad idea. Feed them rice cereal at 4 months. Wait, feed them avocados at 6 months. Heck, babies don’t need anything but milk until they’re one. Time outs or spankings or counting to three. Breast or bottle, public or private, cloth or disposable. Epidural or natural. It even begins before the baby arrives!

Out of the 7.125 billion people on Earth, not a single one of us are the same. Not a single one of us thinks exactly the same way, has the same idiosyncrasies, concerns, priorities, or personalities, and, that being the fantastic and wonderful case that it is, not a single one of us will parent exactly the same. Nor should we.

Sometimes those comments, right or wrong, can really sting. As moms, the way we parent becomes a part of us. We love our children, we want them to grow into good, kind, loving, normal human beings, and we feel like we are trying our hardest to do what’s best for them. Sometimes those comments are meant to be malicious, to be offensive, and sometimes they just aren’t. But always, always it is our decision how we will take them.

“Certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” — David A. Bednar

That sting of my first encounter with the realities of opposing opinions in parenting is gone. Looking back, it seems almost silly that I took offense at the opinion of those two women. But sometimes other opinions do sting, and sometimes I have to remind myself that offense is mine for the leaving…If I choose.

Dear mothers, let’s remember that we are all doing our best. Let’s help each other, love each other, and above all encourage each other. And, when something must be said, let’s do our very best to be tactful and kind.

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And dear mothers, when someone tells you something that stings, try not to take offense. Remember all that you do right, and, if needed make some changes. Because, chances are, you really and truly are doing wonderfully.

“May I say to mothers collectively, you are magnificent.” Jeffery R. Holland

In a world where taking offense is so often our first line of defense, I hope that we can instead choose to learn from each encounter and move forward. Oh my, what an incredibly difficult thing to learn! But today, today I’m going to try.

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Unfinished

M came down the stairs this morning in pants that would have been fantastic for some clam digging on the beach. I could have swore that just yesterday I had to roll up those same pants to keep them from dragging on the ground. I used to cringe when sweet ladies at the grocery store would stop me and whisper the old cliché, “Oh, they just grow up so fast!” I’d wonder, does she not realize she is the sixth person to tell me that in this visit to the store??

IMG_20150905_151926_298Then suddenly I blinked and there stood a five-year-old in his clam diggers and over-sized backpack ready for the bus.

In my closet I have boxes and boxes of fabric, each carefully labeled, “Black dress,” “R’s quilt,” “Quiet book,”Giraffe growth chart.” Fabric all cut and waiting, some pieces even sewed together. In the garage sits wood sanded and queued to be built into a shelf, a bench, a frame, a spice rack. Ideas penned in notebooks lay scattered all around the house for a picture book, another blog post, a letter to a friend. Bookmarks keep spots in dozens of started and unfinished books. Clothes fill my closet waiting to fit again, for when I will set aside the time to run and get rid of this lingering baby fat.

Recipes I want to try.
Songs tucked away to be learned on our neglected piano.
A guitar untouched for years.
Pictures waiting to go in scrapbooks.
A list of friends I would love to call and hear their voices again.

Unfinished projects. Sometimes I feel like my life is made up of dozens and dozens of unfinished projects. Skills I would love to learn, chores only halfway accomplished, hobbies and ideas and dreams started and set aside. All waiting. For tomorrow. For the weekend. For when the baby stops fussing, the kids are fed, the spilled cereal is swept, the tickle war is over, the scrape is doctored, the kids are in bed.

IMG_20150909_152418_320And there stands my not-so-little-anymore boy in clam diggers that I’m almost positive fit him just yesterday.

There will come a time when I no longer have the interruptions of spilled cereal to clean. These little ones will eventually brush their teeth without help, and they will no longer beg for the momster to set aside yard work and chase them around the trampoline. Slap Jack will eventually loose its appeal, and scrapes will no longer need mom’s kiss. And when that day comes, when I suddenly have the time for all the projects I’ve started and set aside, I hope I never look back and feel like they, these sweet boys, were yet another unfinished project because I was too busy trying to finish all the others.

IMG_20150921_143823_871They grow up so fast. Their pants seems to shrink from one day to the next. But projects can wait. Someday, moms, the time will be ours. The nights will be longer, the little chatter that fills our homes will come much less often than we wish. And all those unfinished projects will fill our time. But now, now is theirs. Now is about slap jack and monsters and spilled milk. Now is the greatest project, the most amazing adventure we will ever embark on. And I’m sure we will never regret making sure that this one isn’t set aside, put on the back-burner, forgotten and left unfinished. Because, moms, in everything that can wait, this one can’t. Let’s give our today to them.

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Categories: children, Family, Life Lessons, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beauty in EVERY Moment

My husband’s Grandma Jane made the BEST cinnamon rolls in the world. years ago on one particular visit I decided I was determined to learn her sticky bun magic. Pen and paper out, I jotted down everything, from the type of spoon she used to the number of times she stirred the dough. How she sprinkled on the sugar and cinnamon and the color of the pan she cooked them in. With my careful calculations and particular care I took in writing everything down I just knew I would be pulling out the most golden, soft, moist cinnamon rolls when we got home.

The batches that followed never quite measured up. Rock hard. Too crunchy, too doughy, not sweet enough. Even when following the directions I so carefully jotted down that day I have yet to master her perfect rolls.

Every spring I make a Little Shutterfly book for the previous year. Last July Grandma Jane passed away quickly and unexpectedly. While I looked through pictures to create our annual book and tried to decide what to say for the summer months, I thought about all that I wished I had learned from her before she left. If I could have watched her make those cinnamon rolls one more time I just might have discovered her magic. Just maybe.

IMG_0414But as amazing as her cinnamon rolls were, they dimmed in comparison to the other life lessons I wish I could have learned. In her funeral program is something she wrote.

“Every moment is beautiful and captures the attention.”

Right after our third son was born I remember feeling exhausted, exasperated, and at the end of my rope. Our then four-year-old and two-year-old had demanded one too many things and made far too many messes. I took the baby and locked myself in the bedroom. I could hear the two little criminal master minds contemplating how to break in as I sat with the baby in the rocking chair and cried. Whoever came up with the saying not to cry over spilled milk must have understood mother-dom well. That cup of spilled milk has reduced me to tears far more often than I would like to admit.

THAT moment was not my prettiest, nor what I would have called beautiful.

For months we fought a whitey tighty war against our middle son. Every time he woke up, every time he used the bathroom, every time he escaped my view I had to ask him, “M, are you wearing underwear?” and that was always, always followed by, “Please go get your underwear on.” Sometimes my response was anything but beautiful. Sometimes I was so tired of the constant questioning that it was downright mean. One day M came running down the stairs. “DAD! DAD! Guess what?? I remembered underwear! Wanna see?” With that he pulled down his pants, revealing a naked little bottom. His shocked face was priceless as he yanked up his pants and scampered back up the stairs.

As a mom I can’t say that I find every moment beautiful. Sure, it often captures the attention, but all-too-often in a “You spilled your milk AGAIN?!” sort of way. The scraped knees, the toddler tantrums, the cleaning up after every single messy meal. The legos that I always manage to step on and the beds that never get made. Frankly, motherhood often leaves me a grumpy old witch.

But Grandma Jane didn’t just write that every moment was beautiful. They were so much more than words. I have no doubt that she felt it. She really and truly believed it. Every moment DID seem beautiful to her and did capture her attention. She had an incredible way of finding the best in even the most rotten person or crummy situation. Grandma Jane left behind a legacy of finding beauty.

HPIM0657Some moments might not seem beautiful as a mom. Some moments are downright dirty. But I am sure that with effort we can, like Grandma Jane, find beauty in even the ugliest moment.

Maybe it will take a healthy dose of humor.
I’m sure we will have to seek for a good measure of forgiveness.
We occasionally will have to throw common sense to the wind, forget we’re adults and jump in the mud with the kids.
Sometimes it might mean taking a step back and just being thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was. We might have to be grateful for those that help us through those particularly hard days.

Beauty is there for the finding. We often just might have to look extra hard. And eventually I hope it will get easier and easier for the beauty to capture the attention instead of the mess.

Someday I will master her cinnamon roll recipe. It might take years to achieve the ooy-gooy Grandma Jane-y goodness, but someday I’m determined to serve up a plate of the best rolls you have ever tasted. And today, today I’m going to try to look on life with such Grandma Jane optimism, such happiness, such joy. And I will try to find beauty in every moment.

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Categories: Happiness, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Little More

The hostess slipped two menus off the desk. “Right this way, please.” I smiled to myself as we passed by the high chairs. That’s right, two. No high chairs for us. No crayons, no kiddie menus no over-priced macaroni, no bibs. Just a table for two. I could count on one hand the times in the last three years my husband and I had been out on a true, blue, honest-to-goodness date. You know, not the ones that involve doing dishes together after the kids are asleep then watching the much-anticipated episode of Downton Abbey. An actual date!

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That day I had spent crunching numbers. My husband had spent the day attempting to do his work while making dozens of phone calls to the county. Our septic system has been on the fritz since we moved in, and that week’s batch of laundry seemed to have done it in. Like all unexpected expenses, I can’t say we were any too thrilled about this rather large project, nor the amount it would cost. Financially we would be just fine, but it certainly wouldn’t be convenient. I could think of dozens of ways I’d prefer to spend our savings, but so goes life.

We dropped the boys off at our friends’ house for a fun pizza and movie night and continued our conversation of worries in the car. Spending money on dinner seemed a little silly considering our newest rather large expense looming in the near future, but we had planned it all week, and this was an outing that we rarely had a chance to take.

We settled in the booth and vowed to not talk any more about that blasted septic system and just enjoy our night away. Instead, our conversation turned to our kids (what else?) and then to the kindness people have shown us and how we want to be more like them. From our friends offering to watch our kids for the night, to grandparents and aunts and uncles who do so much, to the small acts of service we’ve witnessed over the years. As we were getting ready to leave, the waitress came to our table. “Would you like any dessert?” We shook our heads and thanked her. “Well, you are all set to go. That couple over there paid for your tab. Yes, all of it. You can just go when you are ready.” I turned away hoping the waitress didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The two generous people were slipping their jackets on and briskly walking to the door before we could catch them. I had read about things like that in the paper, but to actually be the recipient touched me to the core.

Out of all the couples sitting in that restaurant, why had they chosen us? They didn’t know about our unexpected septic system expense or that we rarely got a chance to go out as a couple. They didn’t hear our conversation about selfless kindness, but they gave us yet another example of goodness to add to our list.

A little more. It’s amazing what a difference a small act of kindness can make. It doesn’t have to be money. Share a little more smiles, be a little more patient, say a little more kind words, listen a little more closely. Give a little more love, offer a little more help, be a little more conscientious. A little more. That’s all it would take, just a little more every day. We have no idea what story is hidden in each person. We don’t know what they are experiencing. Why not show them, give them, just a little more? I’m grateful for wonderful examples of kindness I have so often witnessed. To that kind couple who slipped away at the restaurant on Friday night before we could offer our thanks, your kindness warmed my heart.

This is one of my favorite little clips on kindness. I hope you can take a second and watch it!

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Believe

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies… No matter if they’re true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.” –Secondhand Lions

We see things in the news every day. Disasters, scary things. People making unwise decisions and the consequences of their actions hurting others. We see it on tv. We read it in the paper. I stand in the checkout line at the grocery store and, glancing over at the tabloids, I almost feel sick.

“Exclusive: What drove a popular boy to commit mass murder.”

“The Ultimate Betrayal”

“So-and-so and another actor split. Who gets the kids? The fight begins.”

“Secret Lies Exposed”

“Hollywood’s Worst Bodies.”

Wait. This is news? Really? Do we honestly enjoy this gossip? Reading about how other human beings’ lives have been destroyed? Their faces plastered across the front page, their anguish three columns in length for the world to peruse.

And then I return home and I look out my kitchen window while I make dinner. I see my boys playing pirates. No doubt the bad guys will loose, the good guys win. They always do. Good always triumphs over evil. Honor, courage and virtue still exist. People are generally good. They know because they are around goodness and kindness every day. Teachers, bus drivers, librarians, parents, the lady at the grocery store that digs through her purse to find a penny to ride the horse. Money and power simply don’t matter. And love. True, selfless love: they’ve seen it. They see it in grandparents and great-grandparents, and they’ve felt it from all the good people. They know. It’s real. IMG_0795 Their faith is so pure, their innocence refreshing. Their view of life uninhibited and clear.

And again I believe.

Categories: children, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Catch a Crawfish–Be Yourself!

Every few days a poor, misguided soul will come across my blog looking for answers about crawfish.

How do you catch a crawfish?

Crawfish in septic system

Can crawfish climb stairs?

Dreams about crawfish

Crawfish recipes

Every time I see these searches I feel a tinge of guilt. Their quest for answers about these lobster-like creatures has brought them to my page about raising little boys. Something I’m sure they didn’t intend to find. I imagine them clicking on my link in the Google search and seeing the picture of my boys walking along the pond. They breathe a disappointed sigh, maybe grumble in frustration, and finally close out of my site to continue their search. To those who have accidentally stumbled across my little corner of the blogsphere in search of answers about crawfish, you have my sincerest apologies. I never intended to trick you into clicking on my site.

When I started this blog, I had several ideas for names swirling around in my mind. I knew I wanted to write about people we met who made a difference in our lives and also about lessons that I hope my sons will learn as they navigate life. Here were some I considered.

Don’t Eat your Boogers (…and other life lessons I hope my sons will learn) –my husband said this was too hillbilly, but truth be told, I kinda liked it the best.

Quest for Good

Becoming Country Boys (life lessons I hope my sons will learn) –We moved to the country going on two years ago, and our adventures here have shaped many of my posts.

Slugs And Snails (life with all boys)

Obviously, Catching Crawfish (life lessons I hope my sons will learn) was the winner, and just like that a new parenting blog was born. Out of all the names, this one stood out to me because it represented many happy memories of walking along our little pond searching for crawfish. Our frequent quests represented so many afternoons of time together learning about life. We’ve never tasted crawfish, we’ve never fried them, boiled them, buttered them up for the grill, or even raised them as pets. But you can bet your bottom dollar we’ve caught them. And here’s how, for all you curious google searchers who land on my site by chance:

My boys carefully turn rocks over until one happens to be resting there in the water. Their quick little hands cup around them (if they’re small), or grab below their pinchers using their thumb and pointer fingers. A hot dog on the end of a stick also does the trick. That’s it! Pretty simple.

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My site address is slightly misleading. It really doesn’t have anything to do with catching crawfish. The name is not exactly what it is. How often is this the case in life? Do we occasionally put on a façade and pretend to be something we aren’t just to get friends, to be popular, to make money, to get something we want, to make us feel better about ourselves…?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –Ralph Waldo Emmerson

My name is Chelsi, and I’m the face behind Catching Crawfish. This is me:

  • I’m a mom to three fun boys and a wife to a great man. I grew up in a small town with one sister that I adore and parents that I love.
  • I’m adjusting to country life and really do love it, but I miss PEOPLE! I miss my sweet neighbors, waving to them and visiting (friends, come visit any time!).
  • I’m an introvert.
  • I absolutely love organized sports, especially frisbee, soccer and volleyball. I also enjoy running.
  • I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. I’m a Mormon. I believe that our relationships in this life can last into eternities. I’m so thankful for my faith in families being forever.
  • I love to write.
  • I’m far from perfect and sometimes wish I could go back and change things in the past. But I know I am who I am today as much (or more) because of my trials, failures and mistakes as my successes and accomplishments.
  • I graduated in Elementary Education, but secretly dream of writing children’s books and being a librarian.

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To my dear, crazy, silly, one-of-a-kind boys, I hope you will always be yourselves, no matter what pressures you face to be someone different. Allow others to help you reach your potential. Learn from example. Emulate those that make the world better. But don’t allow anyone to make you into something you’re not. Don’t loose that twinkle in your eye, that mischievous grin, that unfaltering faith. You are so unique, so special, so loved, JUST the way you are. Never forget that!

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Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Black Eyes, ER Visits, and That Sweet Reminder of What Being a Mom is All About

I knew the day would eventually come. With three rambunctious, happy, crazy boys the rush to the emergency room was bound to happen sooner or later. I have to admit, having gone six years with only one or two visits to the doctor for anything other than well checkups, I was feeling like we’d done pretty well. But I suppose my bubble had to burst eventually, and Saturday happened to be that day.

We’d gone to visit my parents about three hours away. My husband was out of town camping for the week, so the boys and I woke up extra early to make the journey. We sang in the car, played 20 questions, listened to Hank the Cowdog on cd, and even slipped through “the big city in between” without a smidgen of traffic (amazing!!). Grandma’s house is a magical place of cookies, hideouts, lush gardens with as many grasshoppers as a little boy could dream of, rhubarb pie, swing set, playhouse, and… the TRAMPOLINE. Oh, the trampoline. That wonderful invention that can keep a little boy on top of cloud nine for hours. We talked about the trampoline for a good fifteen minutes of the drive and determined that as soon as hugs had been exchanged, THAT was what they were going to do.

Sure enough, upon reaching our destination, the boys leaped from the car doors and ran to give hugs, then holding true to their words, ran to the back yard with grandma and grandpa holding their little hands. The trampoline hadn’t been set up yet, so the guys got to work. In and out of the garage the boys and Grandpa went, each time carrying an armful of metal parts. N, our almost-two-year-old was in the thick of it when something caught his eye. A ladder. If you know our youngest son even a little, you know he’s a climber. If there’s ever anything to scale, he’s there. The boys came out with the next handful. All the boys, except N. Suddenly we heard a crash and a scream. I raced in to find our little one lying on the ground under the ladder. My heart hit the pit of my stomach as I lifted his tiny frame into my arms. His eye instantly swelled up as he shook with sobs. In my six years as a mother we’ve had many falls, even more bumps, and innumerable bruises. This one topped them all. With my husband far away in the woods and unable to talk sense into me, my mother and I buckled poor N into his seat and we climbed back into the car.

The emergency room was empty, but for reasons only known to emergency staff, we sat for at least an hour waiting. My son curled up into me and stared around the room dazed. Every few minutes a whimper would escape his mouth and he’d clutch me even harder. I replayed the moment over and over in my mind and felt smaller and smaller. I knew who wouldn’t be getting mother of the year award this week!

Half the day later we were in the car once more headed home with a slip of paper telling us how much Tylenol to administer to a 20 pound toddler. Yep. That was it. “Well,” the doctor sighed after taking a two second look at his face. ” He’ll certainly have a shiner!” (My husband will probably shudder when he sees the bill and hears what it paid for) But he was going to be fine. Thank goodness. Just an amazing black eye to sport for a few weeks.

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Much of the rest of the day I spent holding my baby,cuddling him, rocking him, and letting him sleep while his brothers jumped on the trampoline. He needed his mom, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else but there in Grandma’s back yard loving him. Over and over in my mind I could hear a song my older boys have been learning this year at church.

1. Our Father has a family. It’s me!
It’s you, all others too: we are His children.
He sent each one of us to earth, through birth,
To live and learn here in fam’lies.

Skipping to the third verse…

3. A mother’s purpose is to care, prepare,
To nurture and to strengthen all her children.
She teaches children to obey, to pray,
To love and serve in the fam’ly.

[Chorus]
God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—
This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.

Right then the responsibility to care for that little boy weighed heavily on my mind. To nurture him, to strengthen him while he was in pain. Then, when he was feeling back to his normal, crazy self, to reinforce and teach AGAIN the dangers of climbing without mom there to catch him!!

That day I held in my arms a precious child who needed his mother. How thankful I am for that charge: to care, prepare, nurture, strengthen, and teach my children. How thankful I am for families. For my husband who is usually around to talk sense into me before I rush to the hospital for every little fall. For boys who love to jump and run and play, who get more bruises than I’ve ever gotten in my lifetime, and who teach ME more than I often feel I could ever teach them. And most especially for a loving Heavenly Father who answers my prayers for peace of mind and a calm assurance on the way to the hospital and has given me these three little monkeys to pull my hair out over.
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Until N’s black eye returns to normal, I’ll have a shiny visual reminder of my responsibility as a mom. I’ll have many days to learn what it’s like to be judged by your child’s appearance from passers by, and I’ll have that humbling experience in the forefront of my mind. And I’m sure my three will have more bumps, bruises, and scrapes, and I’ll have that reminder time and time again.

Photo curtesy of Katie Jane Photos (except this is a picture of the picture, so the original is way better! I was just being lazy).  katiejanephotos.blogspot.com

Photo curtesy of Katie Jane Photos (except this is a picture of the picture, so the original is way better! I was just being lazy).
katiejanephotos.blogspot.com

 

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Love Is Not a Jar of Peanut Butter

My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.

Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.

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The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”

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No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.

“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia

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As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!

When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.

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Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.

Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.

When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.

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We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Superhero Dad

Daddy read me stories please!” Just barely two years old. Five simple words. On that night years ago that little phrase changed everything. I’d been waiting to hear those words for quite some time, but when that little voice cut into the silence, a million emotions flooded my mind. Bitter-sweet. So very bitter-sweet.

As I looked on from the doorway and my little boy climbed into his daddy’s lap for bedtime stories, I realized that those first two years were unique. He was mine. All mine. He wanted me. He needed me. Then all at once he grew up. Suddenly I would have taken back every thought of wishing he’d let someone else hold him, play with him, feed him, read to him, change him, dress him… Just for a minute. That’s all. Just long enough to make dinner, clean the bathrooms, take a shower…

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Those five simple words that night triggered a landslide into a new way of life for our family. My role as mother took on a whole new meaning.

Grocery store with mom–Obscene and extreme torture beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
Hardware store with dad–Best day EVER! When can we go again, Dad?

Helping mom water the garden and pull weeds–Eh. Do I have to?
Picking up dog poop with dad before he mows the lawn–Ok! I’ll get the pooper scooper!

Mom helping wash hair–Ahhhhhhh!
Dad helping wash hair–You do it so much better than Mommy. Can you do it every time?

Mom getting the kids to eat broccoli–Ugh. I can’t eat it, Mom! Please, please, please don’t make me!
Dad getting the kids to eat broccoli–You like it, Daddy? Really?? Me tooooo!!!!!

Mom’s lasagna she spent half the day making–Thanks for dinner mom. That was good.
Dad’s concoction thrown together out of desperation in two minutes (including, but not limited to hot dogs, hash browns, onions, lots of salt, pepper and katsup, and  any other leftover in the fridge)–Dad. This is AMAZING!! This is my new favorite food. I LOVED it! When can we have you cook again?!
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I admit it. The transition from Momma’s boy to Daddy’s little buddy was just a bit difficult for me at first. Suddenly Dad was the chosen one. For everything. That man had a little boy shadow everywhere he went, a little parrot mimicking phrases, expressions, and words at every turn. I was finally left with all the time I’d wished for during those first two years, but it just wasn’t what I had imagined it would be. I missed it. But instead of jealousy or sadness, I suddenly found myself watching on the sidelines in wonder as my husband took that little hand. I realized that as hard as it was, nothing could have been so amazing to witness and so important to my sons, then and forever.
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Dads, do you know what you have? Do you realize the powers that you hold? In the eyes of a little boy, you’re a superhero. You are the very person they want to become. You can do anything, be anywhere, accomplish the impossible. You have a child that wants nothing more in this world than your love. They need your love. Sure, they need their moms too, but a dad is something different. A dad can toss them over their shoulder and carry them around like a sack of potatoes. He can talk to them about “guy stuff” and show them how to treat a woman. A dad can take them on a father-son camp out and tell the funny stories and jokes that guys tell when they’re in the wild around a campfire. A father is there to confide in when certain discussion require someone who truly understands. A mom can teach a son how to be a gentleman, but a dad can show him through his actions.
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They need YOU. They need that superhero to teach them, guide them, and help them to someday become that incredible man to a child of their own.
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I know not all circumstances allow for both mother and father in the home. Sometimes things just don’t work out that way, for one reason or another. I believe that when one is missing, a hole is left that must be filled. Sometimes those superheroes aren’t dads, but are extended family, church leaders, teachers, coaches, friends or neighbors. When you take on that role, you’re taking a child’s heart and mending it where it’s been torn. Maybe not perfectly, but they need that. You will mean more to them than you know.
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That bitter-sweet night those years ago still hangs in my memory. A two-year-old boy holding his giraffe in his dad’s lap, listening to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, his eyes beginning to droop. I witnessed it again as my next youngest rushed to find his shoes to follow his dad around the yard. Now my third. Bitter-sweet. I will be forever grateful to the dad of my boys who fills in where I can’t.

Fathers, you may never know the impact you have on those boys’ lives. When you take his hand, you take his mind, his heart, and his future. He will remember the baseball games, the fishing trips, the bike rides, and the times working with your tools out in the garage to help with a project. Probably most of all he’ll remember the rides in the car, the nights at the dinner table, and the simple every-day chores he helped you with. Even if it doesn’t seem like he cares, he does. He will always remember the way you made him feel.
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Yours is a role unparalleled to any other. Thank you for teaching our children and showing them what we as mothers can’t (or at least not as efficiently and easily). Thank you for being that dad.

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Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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